The glamorous seafront town of Cannes is a rather glittery and wonderful place to be over Christmas and New Year.
In the lead-up to Xmas, the cobbled streets and palm-lined boulevards of Cannes are transformed into a place of Christmas markets and festive fun, with the ice-skating rink glowing pale blue under the fairy lights, and little wooden chalets selling hot gooey crepes and mugs of steaming mulled wine. There’s also a fairground in town over Christmas to keep the kids endlessly amused, and the famous Palais des Festivals will be dressed in twinkling lights that shine across the superyacht port.
There are plenty of events organised in Cannes over the festive season. Nativity plays perform local Provencal traditions, carol services draw a crowd, and there’s a fantastic parade on Christmas Eve along Rue d’Antibes. Those wishing to attend Christmas or New Years mass services will find several welcoming options, from the extremely popular French services at Notre Dame de l' Esperance church atop Le Suquet, to the English-speaking Anglican services held at Holy Trinity Church.
Cannes is well-known for its brilliant shopping, and in the lead-up to Christmas, the narrow lanes bustle with shoppers buying presents at the designer boutiques and department stores, while many bargains can be found at the local markets and high street chain stores. There’s even a day of ‘red carpet shopping’ along the Croisette, and musical events through the streets right through December. Meanwhile, there’s a busy programme of concerts at the Palais de Festivals, while Cannes’ restaurants, piano bars and wine bars are a lovely place to relax after a hard day’s shopping.
New Year’s Eve, ‘Le Reveillon’, is brought in with a spectacular fireworks display- in 2016 the theme will be ‘Cannes Celebrates the Cinema’. Be sure to book well ahead for restaurants and events in Cannes for New Year as they’re very popular. The French traditionally celebrate New Year’s Day with a seafood feast with friends and family, so you’ll also find some elaborate dining events at local restaurants on the first of January.
Cannes is putting on an action-packed schedule of events over the festive season. Here’s our guide to the top things to do over Christmas and New Year in Cannes.
December in Cannes
Christmas Village, Allées de la Liberté, 25th November 2016 - 2nd January 2017
The Christmas spirit gets started early in Cannes, with the opening of the Christmas village on Allées de la Liberté at 16:00 on Friday the 25th of November. The village will feature 60 traditional wooden chalets selling beautiful Christmas gifts crafted by local artisans, and delicious gourmet treats such as roast chestnuts, macarons, fois gras, waffles, oysters, and champagne. There will be a stunning Christmas scene set up, with moving Eskimos, huskies, skating bears, polar bears, igloos and icebergs—creating a spectacular effect at night when everything is illuminated.
Santa’s Chalet, Christmas Village, 25th December 2016 - 2nd January 2017
Santa will be in attendance at his chalet on the 10th, 11th, and 14th of December, as then from the 17th to the 24th, every day from 14:30 to 18:00. Photos with Santa will be available from the 19th to 24th, and there’s also a mailbox in Santa’s chalet for the all-important letters to the North Pole.
Children’s Christmas Workshops, 26th November 2016 - 2nd January 2017
The Christmas village will also have a cottage for children’s arts and crafts, running supervised afternoon workshops on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from the 26th November until Dec 14th, and then everyday from the 17th December to the 2nd of January. The 45-minute workshops include making puppet Santa Claus, snowmen, star lanterns, and garland reindeer and snowflake decoration. The workshop schedule will be posted on the cottage.
Christmas Lights and Celebrations, 2nd December 2016, 18:00
Join the Mayor of Cannes for the official opening of the Christmas Village and the countdown to the lights coming on across Cannes. There’ll be Christmas carols after the ceremony, and the ice-skating rink will open for the first time, with free entry until 21:30.
Ice skating Rink Sat 3rd December 2016 - 2nd January 2017
Get your skates on and carve up the ice at the Christmas ice-skating rink on Allées de la Liberté. Mornings between 10:30 and 12:00 are reserved for children between 4 & 10 years of age, when there will be sledding chairs and sliding penguins available for the young children. The rink will be open each day between 10:30 and 20:00, and skating sessions cost 3€ per hour, including skate hire.
Ice Skating Shows, selected dates
There are also four special performances at the rink throughout the festive season:
10th Dec, 18:00: Disco Blizzard, entry 3€
17th Dec, 18:00: Christmas Stars Special featuring scenes from Swan Lake, Cats, and Santa Claus on Ice, free entry
20th Dec, 16:00: Skating showcase by Brian Joubert, free entry
1st Jan, 16:00: Cabaret Cherie, featuring music from the 1900’s, free
Provencal Creche, St Catherine’s Church, Le Cannet
The magnificent 16th century St Catherine’s church in neighbouring Le Cannet has a wonderful Provencal crèche on display, with nativity scenes and ‘santons’, the traditional figurines of the Christmas manger.
Musical Shopping, Rue d’Antibes, selected weekend dates in December
Rue d’Antibes is pedestrianised on the 4th, 11th, 18th, 24th, and 31st of December, with a range of musical acts taking place between 14:00 and 18:00. A great atmosphere for some last-minute shopping!
Red Carpet Shopping, Croisette, 11th and 18th December 2016
The Croisette is that very famous boulevard along the Cannes seafront chock-a-block full of glittering boutiques and grand hotels. On the 11th and 18th, a one-kilometre stretch of red carpet will be laid down along this strip for the Christmas Croisette, a red carpet shopping experience.
English Christmas Carol Service, 18th December 2016, Holy Trinity Church, 7:30pm
All are welcome for this evening of traditional carols, prayers and readings in English, followed by mulled wine.
Cannes la Bocca Christmas Parade, 23rd December 2016, 15:30
The neighbouring village of Cannes la Bocca has a parade in the market square two days before Christmas, with giant toys including fire trucks, acrobats, two giant remote-controlled robots, and two remote controlled hot air balloons. Candies and gifts will be handed out.
Cannes Christmas Parade, Rue d’Antibes, 24th December 2016, 15:00-17:00
Gather the family for one of the most beloved events of Christmas time in Cannes. This Christmas parade along the Rue d’Antibes features 35 cartoon characters, including Winnie the Pooh, Dora, Mickey Mouse, Toons, Tic and Tac, and the animals from Madagasar, as well as clowns.
(English) Children’s Carols Service, Holy Trinity Church, 16:00
A simple half- hour carols service for younger children. All welcome.
(English) Christmas Night Communion, Holy Trinity Church, 23:00
A Church of England midnight Eucharist with Carols, in English.
Midnight Mass, Notre Dame Church: Starting at 22:45
The Provencal Academy perform an enactment of the shepherd’s story, and local leaders present the baby Jesus figure with a selection of local Provencal treats. The choir then sings carols in the language of 17th century Provence, followed by a Midnight Mass. During the mass, the ladies of the Provencal Academy knit a shawl, to be given to the first child born in Cannes after midnight. This event is hugely popular with tourists and locals, so get there early.
(English) Christmas Holy Communion, Holy Trinity Church, 09:00-09:45
Holy Communion, in English. All welcome.
(English) Family Communion Service, Holy Trinity Church, 10:30-11:45
A Christmas Day Eucharist Service with carols for all ages. All welcome.
Christmas Mass: Notre Dame Church, 11:00
This event is hugely popular so get there early or miss out entirely!
(For more information on the English speaking services at Holy Trinity Church, see their website.)
New Year's Eve
Parade with Orchestra, Rue d’Antibes, 15:00-17:00
A seven-piece marching orchestra will play theme tunes from famous films, while dressed up in costumes like Superman and Super Mario.
Les Reveillons des Stars, Palais des Festivals, 20:00
This prestigious gala dinner is back at the Palais for its 20th year. With a three course dinner and performances by Cotton Club Jazz, Paris Reverie Cabaret and Galactica Band, this event is a glittering way to usher in 2017.
Ballet, Sleeping Beauty, Palais des Festivals, 20:30
This spectacular ballet by the Yacobson Ballet Company of Saint Petersburg is directed by Jean-Guillaume Bart, French choreographer and star dancer of the Paris National Opera.
Fireworks Display, midnight
This spectacular 20-minute fireworks display will light up the Bay of Cannes, with many people gathering along the forefront to watch. Carrying on from the afternoon parade, the theme this year will be ‘Cannes Celebrates the Cinema’.
New Year's Day & Beyond
Ice skating show, Allées de la Liberté, 1st January 2017, 16:00
A special performance at the ice rink, ‘Cabaret Cherie’, featuring an orchestra playing music from the 1900’s, a master of ceremonies, and 10 ice skaters.
Ballet, Sleeping Beauty, Palais des Festivals, 20:30
A second performance, see listing above on New Year’s Eve.
Epiphany, 6th January 2017
According to the Bible, the 6th of January, ‘Epiphany’, is the day that the three wise men arrived at the manger bearing their gifts to baby Jesus. Try the local tradition of a cake called gateau des Rois (cake of Kings) with a santon (small figurine) inside.
Opera, New Year’s Concert, 8th January 2017, 16:30 Théâtre Croisette
The soloists and singers of the Chorus of the Compagnie Lyrique of Madame Croche will perform some of the most beautiful Offenbach operas, accompanied by the Cannes Orchestra.
Candlemas, 2nd February 2017
The traditional end to the Xmas festivities is celebrated with pancakes.
If you’re interested in more Christmas events then make sure you check out the details in our events calendar.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to All!